I’m told that the next big thing in sheep fashion could be the umbrella coat.
It’s a device that would pop up umbrella -like from its holder on a ewe or lamb’s back to guard the unsuspecting animal from rain and other precipitation.
Before you ring up my editor and complain that Coughlan has been on the sauce, there is a very logical reason for my speculation about future trends in the world of high sheep fashion.
The biggest issue for those on the frontline of the sheep trade yesterday morning was wet sheep and how factories are dealing with the issue.
The consternation coming from the likes of John Brooks of ICSA was very understandable. The factories’ insistence that sheep not only be clean but that they be constantly dry has him and many others in a state of high anxiety.
Mr Brooks said: “This is Ireland, it’s the middle of the winter, and sheep get wet. What are farmers to do? “In the last week, the ante has been upped by processors. By all accounts wet sheep were perfectly acceptable up until last week. If they now want to introduce a policy of dry sheep only, they will have to look at their own facilities.
“There is plenty of scope to improve lairage conditions so sheep can dry off before slaughter. There is also scope to improve wash-bay facilities for trailers.
“Sheep farmers cannot stop the rain from falling so it is impossible to present dry sheep only for slaughter. ICSA does not condone producers bringing sheep for slaughter in an unfit condition but wet sheep do not contravene the ethos of the Department of Agriculture’s Clean Livestock Policy. Wet sheep are not dirty sheep.”
IFA national sheep chairman Sean Dennehy said meat factories and the Department of Agriculture must adopt a practical and sensible approach given the current weather.
“Neither the factories nor the Department can expect the impossible. It is totally wrong that some factories have threatened farmers and moved to ramp up charges on clipping, with some imposing 80c per head for dagging,” said Mr Dennehy.
While factories are not publicly blaming the enforcement of Department regulations by Department officials, the result is that the numbers of sheep going through the system are, in the short term, in danger of being affected.
On the price front, quotes are largely unchanged with Kepak Athleague and Kildare Chilling pulling their quotes for hogget by 5c/kg.
Reports suggest up to €5.10/kg was paid for hogget yesterday. Cull ewes remain rock solid at an official quote of €2.80/kg in the majority of plants with only Dawn Ballyhaunis off the pace at €2.75/kg, with on-the -ground deals being done at €3/kg.
Lamb prices week on week strengthened at the top end by about €3/hd to 115/hd off a €70/hd base. That top €115/hd price was clicked by a batch of five lambs who weighed in at 51kg. Other prices of note were 41kg at €90/hd and 12 store types at 36kg who made €80/hd. Cull ewes sold from €70-115/hd, with that top price back on the previous week by €13/hd.
Butchers' lambs/hoggets peaked at 2.17/kg for 54kg off a €2.03/kg base as given for 58kg, resulting in a full clearance. In the factory section, prices ran from €2.10-2.25/kg, while the more storish 37-41kg lamb sold from €2.15-2.35/kg. Cast ewes made from €54-129/hd.
Trade for heavy, well-fleshed lamb was reported as "very strong" here yesterday, with wether and ram lambs from 41-54kg making from €103-107/hd, while ewe lambs in the 45-50kg bracket made from €94-105/hd. Among the lighter rams and wethers, prices ranged from €91/hd back to €78 for weights from 40 back to 35kg, with ewes from 26-36kg selling from €61-79/hd, with some of those heavier forward stores easier by about €2/hd.
A good entry of sheep here yesterday, with the trade reported as being "steady". Store lambs from 30-34kg sold from €65-75/hd, with heavier 34-37kg types making from €75-85/hd. Moving to the heavier types, 38-44kg sold from €85-95, with butcher types from 44-50kg making up to €108/hd off a €95/hd base. Above this 50-60kg lambs went as high as €117/hd. Fat ewes made from €60-118/hd.
Lamb/hogget prices averaged €90/hd here and hit a top call of €120/hd. Stag ewes averaged €99/hd to a top of €114/hd.
Trade was steady here with factory lamb making from €90-110/hd, while pens of forward stores sold from €75-95/hd, with lighter stores making from €55-75/hd. Heavy cull ewes saw a top of €120/hd off a €80/hd base, with lighter feeder types selling from €50-80/hd. There was a large entry of in-lamb ewes, with those carrying doubles making from €160-210/hd, while those carrying singles made from €100-160/hd. Older in-lamb ewes made from €80-140/hd.